Collaboration, Modernity and Colonial Rule: Sidiyya Baba and Mauritania
By David Robinson
Fatwa of Shaikh Sidiyya Baba
Proposition. Must Muslims wage holy war, when Christians occupy their territory, and when they [the French] do not oppose anything which touches on religion but on the contrary favor the practice of this religion in establishing judges and organizing the judicial administration?
One must also consider that the Christians act in this way with the Muslims, who are not able to materially wage holy war, just as was true for those in the eastern Maghrib (Algeria and Tunisia).
Praise to God the master of the worlds; may the benediction and blessing be upon our lord Muhammad the Prophet, and on all the prophets and all the saints.
Response. It is required of Muslims who find themselves in similar conditions to not attack the Christians, and they should neglect nothing in order to live in peace with them. As the law and the commentaries say, they should never exhaust themselves in a futile effort to struggle against the Christians.
Shaikh Khalil said in his Mukhtasar [summary statement of the law]: It is the responsibility of the imam to declare a truce to the advantage of Muslims, so long as he is not required to accede to certain conditions, for example to abandon a Muslim, who is a prisoner of the Christians.... The duration of the peace is not limited, but it is preferable that it not be concluded for more than four months. In the case where the Christians betray the terms, the imam should move away and observe them closely. All the conditions of the truce must be executed, even if they require the restitution of hostages....
All of the sources are unanimous on this point: to conseve the greatest amount of advantage and, in choosing between two evil things, to choose the lesser. It is obvious that the obligation to wage holy war disappears before the impossibility of doing it.
God said: There is no reproach to make to the weak, the sick and the poor who act with sincerity towards God and the Prophet, if they are not able to accomplish their obligations. God is merciful and forgiving.
It is evident that the obligation [to wage] holy war disappears in the face of the inability to accomplish it....The inability of this land [of Muslims] to fight against the force of the Christians is obvious. Any sane man who hears and sees is aware of the absence of unity among Muslims, the absence of a public treasury necessary for any action, and the inferiority of their weapons in comparison to those of the Christians....[There is also no obligation] to emigrate, en masse or in part, from the territory conquered by the "infidel", because of poverty as well as the absence of destinations where the necessary security and resources exist...
It must be said, in addition, that the conduct of the Christians...[is what is required by Islam]. They not only do not oppose the exercise of religion, they also provide positive support in the construction of mosques, appointment of qadis and provision of a good organizational structure.
They punish theft and banditry and maintain peace among the warring tribes of this land without government, and do many other things of this sort. It is evident that they are very successful in these things. God has sent them in his mercy for his creatures and out of his goodness....
If the Prophet or the scholar realizes that it is impossible to put in place a government conforming to God's will, nor to combat injustice, then it is permissible to give power to the infidel, and he will know how to accomplish it.... God is the only one who knows all.
Written by the humble servant of God, Sidiyya ibn Muhammad Sidiyya. May God accord his pardon to him, amen. Written the fifth of Shawal 1320 [5 January 1903].
Approval par Saad Buh
What the Shaikh has written is inspired by God and comes from his piety. I mean the saint of saints, the knowledgeable descendant of knowledgeable ones, Shaikh Sidiyya, who writes what is true and conforms to Islam.
He was inspired to write the above and to study the question by his generosity and the love of Muslims which fills his heart, and by the experience and judgment which his illustrious ancestors have always shown. May they be confirmed by God and may God bless them and show His care for them.
The knowledgeable one realizes that the Christians are very numerous and have taken over the powerful and populous empires in the East and the West, and knows equally that the Shaikh, inspired by God and by his piety (may God bless him and his ancestors), is one of the first among the inheritors of the Prophet, and is one to whom Muslims have given themselves more than anyone. They will submit to his judgment full of reason
Written by Saad Buh ibn Shaikh Mudammad El Fadil bin Mamin El-Qalwami.
Archives marocaines : publication de la Mission scientifique du Maroc vol. 11 (1907) edited by Michaux-Bellaire pp. 129-139.
Digital version sourced from National Library of France, Philosophy department, history, science of man, 8-03J-166 (http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k106575p/f3.image.r=Maroc.langFR)